Osheaga 2014 Gogol Bordello © Bianca Lecompte

2015 has been off to quite a busy start, but before we get too involved, let’s take one final look back at 2014.

Every year we ask our contributors to vote on the favourite two posts they wrote and the two posts they liked most from all the other contributors on the site. Then, in a not-too-scientific manner, we turn that into this list.

In no particular order, these are the top posts of 2014 on FTB:

Standing in solidarity with Ferguson by Cem Ertekin, photos Gerry Lauzon

After the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri erupted. In Montreal, the Black Students’ Network of McGill organized a vigil. Cem Ertekin was there to report and record audio and Gerry Lauzon took pictures (read the post).

Burlesque: A Naked Revolution You Can Do Too! by Cat McCarthy
Cat McCarthy on what burlesque has done for her and can do for you, too. For her, it’s a revolution of sexual liberation. (read the post).

Our first and (probably) last post about Jian Ghomeshi by Johnny Scott

We only published one post about Jian Ghomeshi this year: Johnny Scott’s satirical response to the overbearing presence of Ghomeshi images in his Facebook feed. The story is important, but do we really need to keep looking at his face? (read the post)

Electric Winter: an interview with Igloofest’s Nicolas Cournoyer by Bianca David

Did you know that Igloofest started out as a joke? Well, it did, and now it’s anything but. Find out about the fest’s origins and its future in Bianca David’s interview with founder Nicolas Cournoyer. (read the post)

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From the solidarity vigil for Ferguson held in Montreal on November 25, 2014. Photo by Gerry Lauzon.

 

Solidarity with the enemy: When the oppressor wants to fight oppression by Jason C. McLean

When municipal workers took up the fight against austerity, Jason C. McLean wondered if it was possible to show solidarity with those who didn’t reciprocate. Also, would that even be a good thing? (read the post)

Channeling Energy with Brody Stevens @ OFF-JFL by Jerry Gabriel

This year, we covered Just for Laughs, OFF-JFL and Zoofest. One of the more, um, interesting performances we saw was by Brody Stevens (he had a cameo in The Hangover). Find out why it piqued our interest in this report by Jerry Gabriel. (read the post)

Ferguson – The Grand Hypocrisy: Legitimate violence, ideology and the American Dream by Niall Clapham Ricardo

How legitimate is a legal system that serves more to oppress than to protect? Niall Clapham Ricardo takes a look at the aftermath of the Ferguson Grand Jury. (read the post)

The rise of EDM at Osheaga by Jesse Anger

This year, we returned to Osheaga and Jesse Anger discovered that it was more electronic than ever. Find out why. (read the post)

 

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From November 29, 2014 Refusons l’Austerité march in Montreal. Photo by Cem Ertekin.

 

Say no to victim blaming by Bree Rockbrand

When the Montreal taxi rape story broke, Bree Rockbrand searched for stories of similar cabbie assaults. What she found lead to this post about why we need to stop victim blaming. (read the post)

Cuddles and catpuccinos: How Montréal is setting the course for cat cafés in North America by Josh Davidson

CAAAAAATS! But seriously, there are cats, plenty of them, at Montreal’s two cat cafes, the first such places in North America. Josh Davidson reports. (read the post)

Snowpiercer is a Welcome Addition to the Current Dystopia Craze by Thomas O’Connor

With the dystopia genre going the way of vampires, Thomas O’Connor takes a look at Snowpiercer. Is this a film that can buck the trend? (read the post)

SPVM officers issue a ticket for a situation they created (AUDIO) by Jason C. McLean

Lindsay Rockbrand just wanted to lay down for a few minutes on a park bench, but the SPVM wouldn’t let that happen. Even though it was before 11pm, they managed to give her a ticket for being in a park after hours (read the post and listen to the interview)

Tinder, Tinder, On The Wall… by Jules

Jules decides to try out Tinder. Wonder what will make her swipe left? Find out. (read the post)

Igloofest 2014 7 © Bianca Lecompte
Igloofest 2014. Photo by Bianca Lecompte.

 

2014 in Review: Why Feminism Still Matters by Stephanie Laughlin

It’s not usual for a year-in-review piece to make it to the list of favourite posts, but Stephanie Laughlin’s look at the events of 2014 as a reason feminism is still needed bucks that trend. Find out why. (read the post)

Some Nasty Advice: The Nasty Show @ JFL by Hannah Besseau

We didn’t like everything at this year’s JFL. While Hannah Besseau enjoyed the Nasty Show overall, she does have some advice for next year. Will those planning it listen? (read the post)

Quebec election postponed until August: Marois by Jason C. McLean

Our April Fools posts usually catch a few people (usually those just waking up) off-guard, but in 2014 we really seemed to have hit a nerve. Maybe it’s because the scenario we jokingly proposed wasn’t all that inconceivable, given the climate. (read the post)

P6 is police collaboration and I refuse to participate in it by Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson argues why, under no circumstances, people organizing a protest should comply with municipal bylaw P6. It is collaboration, pure and simple. (read the post)

Osheaga Day 3: The Green stage rules them all [PHOTOS] by Bianca Lecompte

More Osheaga! This time, it’s the Green Stage and quite a few photos by Bianca Lecompte. (read the post, check out the pics)

Petrocultures 2014: Oil Energy or Canada’s Future by Sarah Ring, photos by Jay Manafest

This year, McGill held a conference on oil and Canada’s energy future. It welcomed people with sustainable solutions to our dependence on fossil fuel and Ezra Levant. FTB’s Sarah Ring and Jay Manafest were in attendance. (read the post)

#FantasiaFest Interview with Director Leigh Janiak of Honeymoon by Pamela Fillion

No, this isn’t just in here because it mentions Ygritte from Game of Thrones, but that helps. It’s actually a pretty cool interview by Pamela Filion with Leigh Janiak, Rose Leslie’s director in Honeymoon. (read the post)

Our collective struggle: Austerity and Spring 2015 by Cem Ertekin

This piece by Cem Ertekin is a prediction of what’s to come in the Quebec student movement (SPOILER ALERT: We’re in for another Maple Spring). It’s also a great primer for anyone wanting a rundown on just what austerity is and Quebec politics for the last few years. (read the post)

This past Thursday and Friday, a wide range of accomplished doers and thinkers gathered for the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and the University of Alberta’s Petrocultures Conference. Presentations took many interesting turns, from Brenda Longfellows’ interactive documentary Offshore to Lynn Millers’ discussion of how to save oil-soaked birds. Most presenters focused on the current and future state of Canada’s energy-producing resources as well as on the cultural, social, political and economic implications of shifting toward a sustainable green economy.

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Tzeporah Berman, the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program, Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics

For some, technology was advanced as the solution. Cenovus Energy, one of Canada’s “green” oil  companies sees technological solutions remedying the array of problems plaguing their industry, from reducing air-born pollutants to minimizing the impact of drilling by using helicopters to access remote wells.

For others, technology is no panacea. Darin Barney, Canada Research Chair in Technology & Citizenship at McGill instead sees politics as the arena where problems will be resolved. His talk focused on the prevailing discourse that  promotes oil-sands through a nationalist and especially a technological-nationalist discourse. Though this is viewed as a last resort strategy on the part of oil-advocates, appealing to nationalist sentiment nonetheless remains effective in quieting dissent and excluding alternative opinions by delegitimizing opponents as radicals and un-Canadian.

This nationalist veil also serves to mask the fact that, far from being a country-wide project benefiting all Canadians, it is the people who shoulder both the risks and costs while subsidies and profits flow directly into private coffers. Barney stated that while only 13% of oil reserves world-wide are privately owned, 51% of those are in Alberta.

Every year, oil industries benefit from over $1.4 billion in government subsidies. If you think this cash contributes to impressive job-creation stats you would be mistaken. Equiterre’s Steven Guilbeault stated that for every $1 million invested in the oil industry only 2 jobs are created, compared to 15 jobs in the green energy sector.

According to Tzeporah Berman, investing $1 million in any other sector yields more jobs than investing that same amount in Canada’s petroleum industry. Berman, a leading Canadian environmental activist, delivered one of the most memorable, informed and impassioned speeches reminding us that safety and health must trump the current trend of subsidies, production and pollution.  “We have a right to debate,” she said “and a right to the right debate.”

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Sun News’ Ezra Levant talking about “ethical oil” (image published over the objections of the author who thinks this man gets too much free publicity already)

Preceding Berman’s talk, Ezra Levant, our national court jester, appeared as his usual brash and boring self. While he was light on the reasoned argument front, he scored points nonetheless for giving the loudest speech (yet not loud enough to cover the audible derisive snickers from the audience). It was a wise decision on the part of the moderator to quash Levant’s question period; he was the only speaker to merit the distinction. Let’s give him another point for that too.

While Levant may have been the loudest, the students involved in Divest McGill were the most persistent. They came armed with relevant and hard-hitting questions, such as when Lily Schwarzbaum asked Gerald Butts, former President and CEO of WWF-Canada and current Trudeau advisor who also sits on McGill’s Board of Governors, why the university had not agreed to divest the $50 million it has invested in tar sands, fossil fuel and Quebec’s Plan Nord. He declined to answer, thus delivering a slap in the face to his fellow panellists and audience members who repeatedly called for more dialogue and openness throughout the conference.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking speech came from University of Alberta’s Imre Szeman who, echoing Mike Hulme’s Meet the Humanitiesadvocated for the inclusion of humanistic disciplines, the energy humanities, in discussing and solving the ongoing climate crisis. One of the main difficulties inherent in discussing pertrocultures is that we are all deeply imbedded in it; our daily lives are so dependant on energy that we have all become petro-subjects. Our identity and culture have developed in tandem with cheap available energy making it very difficult to untangle ourselves from that on which we have become so reliant. It has also made for easy targets; just think of when Al Gore was skewered because he would fly to speaking engagements.

The bright minds engaged in the energy humanities can help us conceptualize and move toward a viable “after-oil”  society that hard scientists, governments, and industries have been unable and unwilling to put forward. Part of the solution must involve the study of values, power, psychology, mobilities, meanings and institutions in order to finally get society to act on the mountain of facts about climate change it already possesses.

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Tenelle Starr ‘s controversial hoodie was one of the subjects discussed during Pretrocultures’ co-director, Sheena Wilson’s presentation

The Pertrocultures Conference may be perceived by some as a room full of white men, inherently conservative and exclusionary, and to some degree the accusation is warranted. Nonetheless, the conference brought together some of the smartest and most engaged players who both advocate for and act toward a cleaner and greener future. Hopefully new partnerships between allies were formed during this two-day event. Partnerships dedicated to bridging the chasm that currently exists between knowing and acting.

Perhaps the one line of thought all participants and attendees could agree on comes from Cenovus’ spokesperson: “The status quo is not acceptable.”

* photos by Jay Manafest, see the complete album on our Facebook Page

This week, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada is partnering with the University of Alberta to host a two-day conference titled PetroCultures: Oil, Energy and Canada’s Future.

On Thursday and Friday, academics, industry, journalists and activists will gather to discuss and debate the social, cultural and political implications of Canada’s most controversial natural resource. Équiterre’s Steven Guilbeault will precede Sun New’s Ezra Levant while former Oilsands Developers Group Chair Ken Chapman will speak alongside lawyer Katherine Koostachin, specialist in Aboriginal, environmental and natural resource law.

The safety, health and environmental concerns surrounding the extraction and transportation of oil and gas has made for some bleak headlines these past few months. The Keystone XL pipeline project and the Lac Mégantic train disaster show the perils of having to move immense amounts of energy resources. Alberta’s landscape can attest to this and now we’re even talking about a Quebec petrol manifesto.

Conflicts over energy sources are of course not new; my generation grew up with wars being fought over the stuff. But with environmental disasters not only stemming from the production but also the use of fossil fuels, the repercussions go beyond our borders and are no longer a cause célèbre only for the left.

Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, one of the US’s top military officers, believes that climate change in the Asian-Pacific region poses the biggest long-term security threat to the area. Similarly, experts believe that sustained droughts exacerbated the underlying problems leading to Syria’s bloody civil-war.

Canada is not there yet, but our energy consumption and production habits are rightfully at the center of ongoing social debates.

Petrocultures 2014: Oil, Energy, and Canada’s Future runs Thursday and Friday at the McGill Faculty Club (3450 McTavish). For tickets and other information, see the Facebook event page or visit petrocultures.com